There is a common understanding that children learn by observing and hearing. They catch more through watching someone practice what they preach, so to speak.
Have our children caught the missions bug?
I grew up in a church that taught children about missions, and I will forever be grateful for the blessing of that legacy. Even so, the things I remember most about my classes, especially in our Girls in Action group, were when I had to do the work of talking to a missionary or making a special project about a country or person. I still have the badges I earned and the books we used. I treasure those days.
In the majority of evangelical churches, the days of “teaching” missions has long gone by. There are fewer opportunities for children to hear the testimonies of actual, live missionaries. If this is the case in your church, consider what that means for the future.
Still, all is not lost if parents and churches model missions and provide opportunities for children to be a part of the action.
My parents hosted international students in our home when I was young. This was my first introduction to the reality that not everyone looked like me. I learned how to do hospitality to people who were not like us. I watched my parents live out their faith in front of people who did not have the same faith.
It was when my church began a ministry to a group of newly arrived Laotians that I again watched missions in action. Even as a teenager, I was asked to participate in this effort, instilling in me new skills and understanding of how to relate to people of other cultures and languages.
I caught missions by participating in youth mission trips to exotic places like upper-state New York, a place safely within our borders but a world away for a young Tennessee girl.
And, finally, I listened to the myriad of missionaries who visited our church and spoke about what God was doing in our country and around the world, widening my horizons even further.
Modeling missions for children is like spreading the seed of the gospel—don’t underestimate the impression it can make.
The Lord spoke through the prophet Zechariah, when speaking of the rebuilding of his Temple:
For who despises the day of small things? These seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the ceremonial stone in Zerubbabel’s hand.Zechariah 4:10
That stone in Zerubbabel’s hand may have seemed like nothing, but it was the first sign that God would accomplish his work through him. The same with us: We may not know how to best raise our children to be on mission for God, but when we give him what’s in our hands, he’ll multiply and use it to raise up a new generation of laborers for the harvest.
If you have children, ask yourself how you can speak into their lives about missions.
- Pray together for the missionaries supported by your church.
- Teach them how to give to support the work of missions.
- Plan a family “mission-action” vacation where you can work together in service.
- Host visiting missionaries in your home.
- Pray for your children to be open to God’s calling to local or overseas missions.
If you are in a church, ask yourself how you can spur the Body on to become more of a missional church.
- Help out in your mission organizations or start one for children, youth, or young adults.
- Encourage your pastor to host missionaries more than just once a year to speak to the church and small groups about missions.
- Actively participate in mission action projects (local or overseas) that your church supports. Come back and talk to children’s groups about the experiences.
- Connect with your denomination’s mission organizations, so you can better support them in your church and through your giving.
- Encourage prayer efforts for missions.
If a child watched your life, would they catch the missions bug from you?
There are some viruses worth spreading.
Grace and Peace